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LONDON, England, August 2. IN what is likely the final Phelpte battle ever, should Michael Phelps follow through on his promise to retire from the sport for good after this meet, Phelps became the first man ever to win an event in three straight Olympics with a touch-out triumph over Ryan Lochte in the 200 IM.
Phelps went out strong to the 150, and held on for dear life as Lochte surged down the final 50 for a 1:54.27 to 1:54.90 victory. The swim finished just off Phelps' Olympic record of 1:54.32, but gave him his third straight conquest in the event. He won over Lochte in 2004, over Laszlo Cseh in 2008 and now over Lochte again in 2012. With the win, he became the first man to ever post a threepeat in Olympic swimming competition. Previously, only Dawn Fraser and Krisztina Egerszegi had done so on the women's side.
“I've been a little short in a couple (of races) already,” Phelps said. “Even though Ryan [Lochte] had that 200 back before I knew he was going to be tough. I kind of wanted to push the first 100 as much as I could just to kind of see what would happen. If somebody told me with 25 to go I was under world-record pace, it's kind of frustrating to be a little short but to be able to win the gold medal and repeat three times is something pretty special. I said to [Lochte] in the meet room 'this is our last 200 of the meet and our last 200 together'. We were just joking around, laughing about it. Ryan has probably been one of the toughest competitors ever to swim against. We're seeing a lot more competitors coming up, you see someone like Chad (le Clos) is going to be somebody very fun to watch for the next couple of years. I'm pretty pleased with gold.”
Phelps also won his astounding 20th career Olympic medal, 16 of the gold variety. With his 19th medal in the 800 free relay, he became the most decorate Olympic athlete ever.
Michael Phelps Olympic Rundown
1 200m Individual Medley 1:54.27
1 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay 6:59.70
2 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay 3:10.38
2 200m Butterfly 1:53.01
4 400m Individual Medley 4:09.28
? 100m Butterfly
? 4 x 100m Medley Relay
1 200m Freestyle 1:42.96
1 100m Butterfly 50.58
1 200m Butterfly 1:52.03
1 200m Individual Medley 1:54.23
1 400m Individual Medley 4:03.84
1 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay 3:08.24
1 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay 6:58.56
1 4 x 100m Medley Relay 3:29.34
1 100m Butterfly 51.25
1 200m Butterfly 1:54.04
1 200m Individual Medley 1:57.14
1 400m Individual Medley 4:08.26
1 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay 7:07.33
1 4 x 100m Medley Relay 3:30.68
3 200m Freestyle 2004 1:45.32
3 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay 3:14.62
5 200m Butterfly 1:56.50
Lochte's 1:54.90, about a second off his world record of 1:54.00 from the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai, produced Lochte's 11th career Olympic medal. This came on the back of his 10th career medal earlier in the evening as he also podiumed in the 200 back. Lochte now stands tied with Mark Spitz and Matt Biondi on the all time list as the second-most among men behind Phelps. Jenny Thompson, Dara Torres and Natalie Coughlin are the all time leading females with 12 career Olympic medals each.
“It was a hard race,” Lochte said. “I've been racing against these guys for years now. It's not easy, you're on the biggest stage of the world – the Olympics. I can't complain. I'm bringing home five Olympic medals for USA (including men's 400m IM – gold; men's 4x100m freestyle relay – silver; men's 4x200m freestyle relay – gold; and men's 200m backstroke – bronze). Right now I'm exhausted but I've been training for four years now. It's not the color I wanted. I've had some ups and downs but I'll take it. I had 15 minutes between swims. I was really happy they let me cool down in the diving pool. I've got about 40 people here in the crowd and tomorrow (Friday) is my (28th) birthday. So I'm going to take a breather. I can finally relax.”
Hungary's Laszlo Cseh wound up with bronze in the event with a 1:56.22. He has an impressive five-medal haul himself in his career, but has yet to pick up gold with Phelps and Lochte typically ahead of him.
Brazil's Thiago Pereira (1:56.74), Japan's Kosuke Hagino (1:57.35), Japan's Ken Takakuwa (1:58.53), Great Britain's James Goddard (1:59.05) and Germany's Markus Deibler (1:59.10) were a part of the historic finale. Deibler made the finale with a scratch from South Africa's Chad le Clos.
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